Mr. Fred Hampton was a leader of the Black Panther Party. He was harassed and targeted by local police and the FBI, which led to his death on December 4, 1969, during a police raid on his apartment.
What did Fred Hampton do?
In 1968, Fred Hampton became a member of the Black Panther Party. He quickly moved up in the group, both in Chicago and across the country. But the Black Panther became a target for the police. The police went to Hampton’s apartment early on December 4, 1969, and shot and killed the 21-year-old. A later investigation showed that police had shot almost 100 times, but only one bullet came from inside the apartment. It also showed that the FBI had been watching and following Hampton before he died.
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Frederick Allen Hampton was born to Francis and Iberia Hampton on August 30, 1948. Where he was born varies from source to source. It has been listed as Chicago or as Summit, Maywood, or Blue Island, Illinois, which are all suburbs of Chicago. Hampton was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, according to a book about the Black Panther Party.
Hampton had an older brother and sister when he was growing up. Before Emmett Till was killed in 1955, his family was friends with Till’s family. When Hampton was 10, his family moved to Maywood, which is also a suburb of Chicago.
Hampton went to elementary school at Irving and high school at Proviso East. He was in charge of the school Interracial Committee in high school. He also objected to the fact that the school only put up white girls for homecoming queen, which led the school to let Black girls run.
Hampton went to Triton Junior College to get ready for law school after getting an honours diploma from Proviso East High School. He also went to Crane Junior College, which is now called Malcolm X College, and the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle.
NAACP Youth Council:
Hampton was in charge of the NAACP Youth Council’s West Suburban chapter, which grew to have more than 500 members while he was in charge. He pushed for a public pool in his hometown of Maywood, which led to him being arrested in 1967 for “mob action” after a protest.
Being a part of the Black Panther Party:
In November 1968, Hampton was one of the people who helped start the Black Panther Party in Illinois. He was in charge of this local chapter from Chicago, which was his home base. Even though Hampton was only 20, he became a respected leader in the Party because he was good at public speaking and had worked with the NAACP to help organise communities.
As a Black Panther:
Hampton set up things like free breakfasts and health clinics for the community. He also oversaw the creation of a “Rainbow Coalition” between the Panthers and local gangs like the Puerto Rican Young Lords and the white Young Patriots, whose families had moved from Appalachia. Unfortunately, law enforcement took a bad look at Hampton because of his successes and growing popularity.
Bureau Counter Intelligence Program:
Once FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said that the Black Panther Party was “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” He also feared the “rise of a messiah that would unite and energize the militant nationalist movement.” The COINTELPRO program, which was part of the Bureau’s Counter Intelligence Program, tried to hurt and discredit Black groups and leaders to stop what they thought were threats. Hampton was put on the FBI’s Agitator Index two weeks before he died. This was a list of people Hoover thought could be a threat to national security.
Arrest by Police:
Hampton was also being chased by local police. In January 1969, he was on TV when the Chicago police arrested him for an old traffic ticket. In the Chicago suburb of Maywood in 1968, Hampton was tried for stealing ice cream bars in the fall of that year (a charge he denied). Hampton was found guilty and given a prison sentence of two to five years. During a shootout in November 1969, two police officers and a Black Panther were killed. This made things worse between the Panthers and the police. Even though Hampton was not in town when the police were killed, he was linked to them because of his role in the Party.
Hampton wasn’t the only Panther feeling the heat. Other people in the party had been killed, were in jail, or had left the country. Leaders like Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale couldn’t do their jobs because they were in jail, so Hampton was made the party’s national spokesman just before he died.
Death and What Happened:
Hampton was at his apartment on the West Side of Chicago on December 4, 1969. There were also other Panthers in the house, like Hampton’s pregnant fiancee. Around 4:45 a.m., a dozen police officers raided the apartment after getting a search warrant to look for illegal weapons. Mark Clark, one of Hampton’s fellow Black Panthers, was killed by a bullet that hit his heart almost as soon as they kicked open the door.
Before the raid, police were given a map of Hampton’s apartment by William O’Neal, an FBI informant who had joined the Panthers. On the night of the raid, O’Neal is also said to have given Hampton a drug that makes people sleepy. Officers went to Hampton’s bedroom and shot at the bed, hitting Hampton but missing his fiancée, Akua Njeri (then known as Debra Johnson). Njeri later said that the police told her that Hampton was “barely alive” after they took her out of the room. Then she heard two shots, and then someone said, “He’s dead now.”
Result of Raid:
During the raid, no illegal weapons were found, but the seven Panthers who were still alive were arrested for aggravated assault and attempted murder. Four of them were hurt. Since the apartment wasn’t locked up, the Black Panther Party gave tours of the area. Even though the police said they were responding to gunfire, this story was disproven when it was shown that what the police said were holes made by Panther bullets were actually nail heads.
In 1970, the charges against the Panthers who had lived through the raid were dropped. In the same year, a federal grand jury found that police had fired between 82 and 99 times, but only one shot came from inside the apartment. Edward Hanrahan, the state’s attorney for Cook County, was in charge of the raid. In 1971, he, an assistant, and 12 officers from the raid were all charged with obstructing justice. But none of these charges led to a conviction.
First Black Mayor:
In 1972, Hanrahan was voted out of office. This was a sign that Chicago politics were going to change, and in 1983, Harold Washington became the city’s first black mayor. In the same year, a deal was made for the city of Chicago, Cook County, and the federal government to pay $1.85 million to the survivors of the raid and to the families of Hampton and Clark. The ruling said that the government had worked together against the Black Panther Party and violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights.
On December 9, 1969, Hampton’s funeral was held at the First Baptist Church in Melrose Park. More than 5,000 people came to the event. The Reverend Jesse Jackson was one of the people who spoke at the funeral.
Movies and History:
Hampton’s story was told in the documentary The Murder of Fred Hampton, which came out in 1971, and in the movie Judas and the Black Messiah, which will come out in 2021 and be directed by Shaka King and star Daniel Kaluuya as Hampton.
Play Hampton in the Movie:
Kelvin Harrison Jr. will also play Hampton in the movie The Trial of the Chicago 7 coming out in 2020. Hampton pushed for a community pool to be built in Maywood, and it was named after him in 1970. The Chicago City Council made the 4th of December Fred Hampton Day in 1990 and again in 2004.
Hampton’s son, Fred Hampton Jr., was born just a few weeks after his father died.